NHL Trade Deadline Primer: Hoping for a Dominik Kubalik bounce back

NHL Trade Deadline Rumors Dominik Kubalik
Stacy Revere, Getty Images

The 2022 NHL Trade Deadline is Monday, March 21 at 3 p.m. ET. As we get closer to the deadline we will take a look at some individual players who could be on the move. We continue today with Chicago Blackhawks forward Dominik Kubalik.

With the Chicago Blackhawks at the bottom of the Western Conference standings and a new general manager talking about rebuilding and a “three or five year” process it seems like a given that they are going to be sellers at the trade deadline. The question is simply how much are they willing to sell. Starting goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is the most impactful name on the roster, while Brandon Hagel might bring them back the biggest return outside of dealing one of their big-three (Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Alex DeBrincat). But Dominik Kubalik might be the most likely player to get traded over the next week-and-a-half.

Kubalik burst onto the scene in Chicago as a rookie during the 2019-20 season with 30 goals in only 68 games, resulting in a third-place finish in the Calder Trophy voting behind defensemen Cale Makar (Colorado Avalanche) and Quinn Hughes (Vancouver Canucks). For as promising as that season was, there were some things to have pause over when it came to projecting his long-term value. For starters, he was already 24 years old, which is typically around the time scorers hit their peak. He also had a 19.7 percent shooting percentage for the season, which is unsustainably high long term.

Over the next two years his production has steadily dropped across the board, to the point where he has 11 goals and 21 points in 59 games this season (a 15-goal, 29-point pace over 82 games).

Instead of being a top-line winger, he is probably more of a middle-six option. That still has some value.

What the return might look like

Probably not all that significant. Not only is Kubalik having a down year and regressing for a second straight year offensively, but he is also a restricted free agent after this season and is going to require a qualifying offer of around $4 million. Is it a guarantee somebody wants to commit to that right now? It would probably come down to what he does over the remainder of the regular season and the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Blackhawks are reportedly hoping to get a second-round pick for him, but do not be surprised if he goes for even less given all of the variables. He is a goal scorer that right now is not scoring a lot of goals and is about to make more money next season.

The most logical landing spots

• New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Edmonton Oilers

The Rangers have some serious depth needs but they also have the ability to aim for something more and maybe swing for the fences given their trade assets and gobs of salary cap space. If you could land any player available, why set your sights here? But, they do need additional depth scoring and Kubalik is one of the many options.

The Penguins are definitely in the market for a middle-six winger given the struggles of Kasperi Kapanen. General manager Ron Hextall seems reluctant to part with his first-round pick and they do not have a ton of salary cap space to work with, so Kubalik could be an option. Hextall also reportedly would like a player with term remaining on his contract (the Penguins might lose Bryan Rust after this season in free agency) and while Kubalik is not currently under contract, he is still a restricted free agent.

As for the Oilers, well, who really knows. They have played better under Jay Woodcroft but they still have a lot of issues with forward depth, defense, and goaltending. They need everything just to make the playoffs. The question is whether or not general manager Ken Holland wants to address any of it.

Wild Card team: Los Angeles Kings

The Kings are better than most expected and look to be in the driver’s seat for a playoff spot thanks to some big offseason additions (Philip Danault and Viktor Arvidsson). Kubalik’s career started with the Kings organization (seventh round pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft) before being traded in 2019 for a fifth-round draft pick. The Kings could use absolutely use a little extra depth and Kubalik would be a cheap roll of the dice to see if they could catch some lightning in a bottle.

Spot I want to see just for fun: Florida Panthers

Not their most pressing need but it would be fun if they could get him back on track the way they have with Anthony Duclair and Sam Bennett. Every player they acquire these days seems to put it all together there.

NHL Trade Deadline prediction

The Kings strengthen their playoff push and add Kubalik for a second-round pick hoping that he can rediscover some of his goal scoring touch with a fresh start.

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    Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

    The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

    Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

    After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

    Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

    Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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    MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

    But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

    “I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

    Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

    “I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

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    Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

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    All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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    SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

    Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

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    Kuzmenko signs 2-year extension with Canucks

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    VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Forward Andrei Kuzmenko signed a two-year contract extension with the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday.

    The deal has an average annual value of $5.5 million.

    The 26-year-old Kuzmenko has played in 47 games for the Canucks this season with 21 goals and 22 assists, four penalty minutes and a plus-4 defensive ranking.

    Kuzmenko ranks second on the team in goals and power-play goals (nine) this season.

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    He has also had 14 multi-point games so far this season (second most on the Canucks), highlighted by his first-career NHL hat trick and season-high four-point game against Anaheim on Nov. 3.

    A native of Yakutsk, Russia, Kuzmenko spent his first eight professional seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) with CSKA Moscow and SKA St. Petersburg, getting 200 points (85-115-200) in 315 regular-season games. He set career highs in goals (20), assists (33), and points (53) last season, ranking second in the league in scoring.

    Kuzmenko has also represented his country on the international stage on multiple occasions, totaling 16 points (10-6-16) and six penalty minutes in 37 games played. He was originally signed by Vancouver to a one-year, entry-level contract on July 13, 2022.